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TV: Leverage … familiar and new heist fun

Caught the first episode of the new TNT series Leverage this week. Have to admit that I’m predisposed to liking it already, as I’m a fan of series co-creator John Rogers, and have followed his blog for several years now. So I’ve been following the making of Leverage for sometime, and been waiting for its premiere.

And it’s pretty good, which I expected. It’s in the same category as other cable series such as The Closer and Burn Notice — they might not be The Sopranos or The Shield, but they’re damn good, damn well-made and damn entertaining dramas, often with some humour.

Leverage is essentially a heist series, about a group of thiefs and con-artists led by an honest ex-insurance investigator, Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton). After being baited into a job that goes bad, they set about conning the executive who tried to get them. It’s both familiar in its approach, but original in its depiction of this high tech world.

After Ford is recruited, he meets his team, series regulars Hardison (Aldis Hodge), Eliot (Christian Kane), parker (Beth Riesgraf) and later Sophie (Gina Bellman). While elements of this will seem familiar (a couple of older series, plus the obvious Ocean’s 11 connection), the dialogue entertains and the characters are drawn with vivid immediacy. All the thieves are kind of crazy, but that’s the point.

There’s all kinds of fun touches, from the geek references (read Rogers’ blog long enough and you know where they’re coming from) to the high tech gadgets and trickery (another Rogers favourite, though no doubt co-writer Chris Downey plays his part). All the actors are good in their roles, and the first story is entertaining while have some good twists.

The scenario of taking down corporate wrong-doers seems familiar, yet I can’t really place any other major examples of it. TV is full of crime drama, but mostly it’s either the mundane reality of murder, drugs and theft, or the extremely stylised world of evil genius serial killers. Leverage is somewhere in-between — and in an age of half the planet being screwed over by corporate malfeasance, it seems particularly timely to have a show about a gang determined to take down this category of usually very hard to catch criminal.

As said earlier, it’s a familiar genre and the show has familiar touches, but it’s well done (never underestimate how hard it is to do pop entertainment very) and very entertaining to watch. Will definitely be following this series.

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